Swede dreams: Sweden advances to gold medal final with win over Finland

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Sweden is headed to its first Olympic gold medal final since 2006 thanks to Friday’s 2-1 win over Finland at the Bolshoy Ice Dome.

In a methodical, defensive affair, the Swedes received goals from Loui Eriksson and Erik Karlsson — Karlsson’s now tied with Phil Kessel for the tournament scoring lead — while Henrik Lundqvist stopped 25 of 26 shots for the win.

The goals came after Finland opened the scoring 6:17 into the second period, when Olli Jokinen squeaked one past Lundqvist from a bad angle.

“I think it was a chess match more than the intense battle we all expected,” Sweden’s Daniel Alfredsson told CBC’s Elliotte Friedman following the game.

In terms of atmosphere, the game had an odd feel. Finland defeated the host Russians to get into the semifinal matchup, and that may have contributed to a quiet, less-than-capacity crowd at the Bolshoy. That said, the Finns and Swedes still engaged in a feisty affair born from geography and a long history of high-stakes international competition (Sweden bested Finland for gold at the ’06 games in Turin.)

Finland had trouble utilizing its speed throughout Friday’s game and will no doubt rue its missed opportunities, especially on the power play. The Finns went 0-for-5 on the day, which was a tournament-long issue — they only scored three power play goals in Sochi, two coming in a tournament-opening 8-4 rout over Austria. The Finns will likely also wonder what life would’ve been like with No. 1 netminder Tuukka Rask in goal; he fell ill prior to the game and was replaced by Dallas’ Kari Lehtonen, who stopped 23 of 25 shots.

As for Sweden, it continued the theme of finding ways to win.

Though the team hasn’t been dominant in any of its victories — the 5-0 win over Slovenia in the quarters was deceiving, as the Sweden only led 1-0 going into the third — it has continually gotten the job done and remains the only undefeated Olympic squad to have won all its games in regulation.

Sweden is also now 11-1 in its last 12 Olympic games, dating back to its gold medal-winning performance in ’06.

Rangers punch playoff ticket to wrap up night of clinched spots

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The New York Rangers weren’t ecstatic that Chris Tierney‘s 4-4 goal sent their game to overtime against the San Jose Sharks, but either way, getting beyond regulation punched their ticket to the playoffs on Tuesday night.

For the seventh season in a row, the Rangers are in the NHL’s postseason. They fell to the Sharks 5-4 in overtime, so they haven’t locked down the first wild-card spot in the East … yet. It seems like a matter of time, however.

The Rangers have now made the playoffs in 11 of their last 12 tries, a far cry from the barren stretch when they failed to make the playoffs from 1997-98 through 2003-04 (with the lockout season punctuating the end of that incompetent era).

New York has pivoted from the John Tortorella days to the Vigneault era, and this season has been especially interesting as they reacted to a 2016 first-round loss to the Penguins by instituting a more attacking style. The Metropolitan Division’s greatness has overshadowed, to some extent, how dramatic the improvement has been.

This result seems like a tidy way to discuss Tuesday’s other events.

The drama ends up being low for the Rangers going forward, and while there might be a shortage of life-or-death playoff struggles, the battles for seeding look to be fierce.

Oilers end NHL’s longest playoff drought; Sharks, Ducks also clinch

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There’s something beautiful about the symmetry on Tuesday … unless you’re a Detroit Red Wings fan, maybe.

On the same night that the longest active NHL playoff streak ended at 25 for Detroit, the longest playoff drought concluded when the Edmonton Oilers clinched a postseason spot by beating the Los Angeles Kings 2-1.

The Oilers haven’t reached the playoffs since 2005-06, when Chris Pronger lifted them to Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup Final.

In doing so, other dominoes fell. Both the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks also punched their tickets to the postseason.

The Sharks, of course, hope to exceed last season’s surprising run to the 2016 Stanley Cup Final.

Meanwhile, the Anaheim Ducks continue their run of strong regular seasons, even as memories of their Cup win start to fade into the distance. All three teams are currently vying for the Pacific Division title.

The Western Conference’s eight teams are dangerously close to being locked into place, as the Nashville Predators, Calgary Flames and St. Louis Blues are all close to looking down their spots as well.

Want the East perspective? Check out this summary of Tuesday’s events from the perspective of the other conference.

Craig Anderson took his blunder hard – probably too hard – in Sens loss

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Members of the Ottawa Senators were quick to defend Craig Anderson following his blunder (see above) in Tuesday’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, and it’s easy to see why.

It’s not just about his personal struggles, either. When Anderson’s managed to play, he’s been flat-out phenomenal, generating a .927 save percentage that ranks near a Vezina-type level (if he managed to play more than 35 games).

Goaltending has been a huge reason why Ottawa has at least a shot of winning the Atlantic or at least grabbing a round of home-ice advantage, so unlike certain instances where teams shield a goalie’s failures, the defenses are absolutely justified.

Anderson, on the other hand, was very hard on himself.

You have to admire Anderson for taking the blame, even if in very much “hockey player” fashion, he’s not exactly demanding the same sort of credit for his great work this season.

It’s official: Red Wings’ playoff streak ends at 25 seasons

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When we look back at the 2016-17 season for the Detroit Red Wings, it will be remembered for some sad endings.

It began without Pavel Datsyuk. We knew that their last game at Joe Louis Arena this season would be their last ever. And now we know that Joe Louis Arena won’t be home to another playoff run.

After 25 straight seasons of making the playoffs – quite often managing deep runs – the Red Wings were officially eliminated on Tuesday night. In getting this far, they enjoyed one of the greatest runs of longevity in NHL history:

Tonight revolves largely around East teams winning and teams clinching bids – the Edmonton Oilers could very well end the league’s longest playoff drought this evening – but this story is more solemn.

EA Sports tweeted out a great infographic:

“Right now it’s hard to talk about it, because you’re a big reason why it’s not continuing,” Henrik Zetterberg said in an NHL.com report absolutely worth your time.

Mike “Doc” Emrick narrated a great look back at Joe Louis Arena here: